The last few posts on “Eat, Drive, F*ck” have been kinda bummers because I’ve been talking about all the negative emotions that come from traveling. But one of the best parts of really shitty experiences are the stories that come afterward. So let’s take a break from the turmoil I’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks. I’m ready to tell you one of my best dating stories of all time. It happened here in Austin. And, of course, when I say best I mean worst.
My first week here, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was ready to plow through my list of places I wanted to check out; this list is something I create the week before I move to any new city. I match with a dude on Tinder. He is very, very attractive and suggests that we go swimming. I tell him that Hamilton Pool is on my list. He says great. Let’s go.
Hamilton Pool is about an hour from where I live. At the time, I didn’t think of it, but by agreeing to go on this date, I was essentially agreeing to spend 4 hours with him (an hour drive there and back + a few hours at the pool). As he is driving up to my place, I'm like oh shit what have I gotten myself into? I didn’t really vet this man. What if he sucks?
But the GREAT thing is he doesn’t suck. At all! Our conversation in the car on the way to the pool is fabulous, I'm super attracted to him, and he is very intelligent, laid-back, and easy to talk to. I am into it. He asks if we can stop on the way to grab tallboys. I inform him that I don’t really drink, but if he wants to have a beer at the pool, have at it. As long as this guy isn’t grabbing a six-pack he plans on finishing on his own (also because he is driving me home), I truly do not care. Please go ahead and grab a beer. He does.
This detail doesn’t seem very relevant, but it will make sense later. Hold on.
After grabbing his beer, he tells me that he has a joint if I would like to partake in that instead of alcohol. I tell him thank you, kind sir, because that is exactly what I would like to do.
So we get to the pool. We’re the first people there and it is fucking magical. The conversation is still great and he is still as hot as ever. While he’s enjoying his beer on the beach, I notice something on his face.
I am a sexual health writer. I know what a herpes lesion looks like. And I know what a herpes lesion looks like in comparison to razor burn or acne or any other skin ailment. But when I look at his face, I truly cannot tell. And when you can’t tell, you should probably err on the side of caution. He also mentions that he’s just gotten over a cold, which, if you did not know—herpes outbreaks usually coincide with cold-like symptoms. I take this information and file it to the back of my mind. My brain is just like, “Dana, please just note this information.” And so I do.
Others have been arriving to the pool and we’re now around twenty or so people. My date asks if I want to hike off-trail with him and smoke that joint he brought. I say yes.
As we hike to a spot where we can smoke in peace, I ask what kind of weed it is. I have PTSD (to the point that I have to take medication to prevent nightmares) and am an everyday smoker to help with my sleep schedule (otherwise I would never sleep). If there’s anything I know better than banging recently divorced dads, it’s weed.
So I ask what we’re smoking—is it indica, sativa, hybrid, etc? Does he know the strain? And he’s like, “I honestly have no idea. I’m not really into weed. All I know is that it’s cheap.”
In my experience, cheap equals weak. And I already have a pretty high tolerance. I don’t say any of this to him, but this is something you, dear reader, should keep in mind.
Now, remember, I can’t tell if what is on this guy’s face is herpes or not. I don't want to share a joint with him while he has active lesions (if that is what they are). So I tell him, hey, I have an autoimmune disease (which is true). My immune system is weaker than other people’s. And you just got over a cold. So instead of passing the joint back and forth, could I smoke half and then pass it to you? And he says that he has such a nice buzz going from the tallboy that I can smoke as much of the joint as I want, to just save him a couple hits.
Remember—this stuff is weak and I have a high tolerance. So I suck down 85% of that joint. After all, he said that it was cheap.
It ended up not being weak. At all.
And here’s the thing—weed is a huge aphrodisiac for me. I will make out with a lamp post when I’m high. All I want to do is TOUCH THINGS. And by THINGS I mean YOUR DICK. And I’m out in nature with a beautiful man and I’m stoned and ALL I want to do is make out with him. But then I think of the small cluster of I-don’t-know-what-that-is on his face. There’s a part of me that thinks, “Dana, you’re being paranoid. Of course this person doesn’t have herpes. It looks like razor burn.” But there’s also a louder, more assertive voice in the back of my mind that says to me, “Dana, don’t do it. Don’t you fucking do it.”
And so I don’t. Even though that is literally ALL I want to do. I want to kiss this man’s face off. But I abstain. Because I am a fine, upstanding Christian woman.
I am so high that I can barely walk back to the pool. However, when we do, we go swimming again and it is incredible. Swimming there while high off your ass is a transcendent experience and I highly recommend it.
It’s been a few hours and it’s now time to leave. And honestly, it’s been a fabulous date. Truly. This guy is really cool and hot and brought me weed. What more could a gal ask for?
We now have an hour drive back to Austin. And for forty minutes, it’s just like—it’s eighty degrees outside with zero humidity, the sun is on my face, the windows are down, the music is turned up, and we’re driving through the lush Texas countryside. And I’m just chilling in the passenger’s seat, completely blissed out. I’m not talking. Neither is he. About forty minutes pass like this.
He then turns to me and is like, “Hey, I’m so sorry I haven’t been talking! I hope you don’t think I’m being rude—I’m just super content and relaxed right now.” And I’m like, “Dude! I feel exactly the same way! I was just thinking how I hope you weren’t thinking I was being rude.” We share a laugh. It is comfortable. And then he says to me:
“Do you want to hear my poetry?”
Please remember that I am incredibly high when he asks me this. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if I heard him correctly. I don’t even know what year it is.
Without me saying anything, he fiddles with his phone, which has been hanging in a cradle attached to his rear-view mirror. I think to myself if this guy is going to read his poetry off the Notes app in his phone, I am going to shut this down. That is essentially texting and driving and that is dangerous. I also hope that is what he is doing because then I have an automatic out from listening to his poetry.
That was not what he was doing.
What he was doing was connecting his phone to the audio system of his car because he had already recorded himself reading the poetry.
Now, one thing you should know about me is that an ex of mine once wrote a poem about us after our breakup in which, at the end of it, I drown. So poetry is a bit of a sore spot for ol’ Dana Hamilton. But I would have gladly taken another poem about me drowning over what happened next.
Because I thought: he’s going to read a poem. How long could this possibly be? It takes 90 seconds to read a few stanzas, yeah?
You guys, it was five to seven full minutes of rhyming slam poetry.
If you’re thinking to yourself, hey, didn’t people stop doing rhyming slam poetry in the late 90s, I get it. I’ve asked that very question myself. But I’m here to tell you that that is indeed not the case.
I am so high that all I keep thinking is am I hallucinating this or is this really happening. The only thing I remember doing is clenching my hands so hard that I could break pencils in them. I keep waiting for it to be over and yet it keeps going. This man has a lot of shit to rhyme.
When, finally, mercifully, it is indeed over, I am frozen in place. I honestly don’t even believe that just happened. I’m also violently high. He looks over at me. I don’t say anything. And so he proceeds to say the worst possible thing he could have said in this moment, which is:
That’s right. What did this guy follow up a 5 to 7-minute rhyming slam poetry reading with? Another fucking rhyming slam poem. Surprising no one, this poem is worse than the first one.
[Later, when I tell this story to my friends, two of them said I should have opened the door and tucked and rolled. Another said, “He held you hostage in a car and forced you to listen to his poetry? He is a terrorist.”]
Now here’s the thing, you guys. I worked really fucking hard to become a writer. I take my work very seriously—and part of the work is workshopping and analyzing and critiquing my own work and others’. That’s what you do when you’re a writer. I've had friends whose books, before they were published by top houses, were once manuscripts I saw and covered in notes. I try to push my friends to be the best they can be. I was also an editor for ten years. And so, as a result, I do not give false praise. Ever.
So after that second god awful poem, when he looked over to me, the best I could do was say: “I like that you like it.”
THIS IS ANOTHER REMINDER THAT I AM ALSO HIGH AS SHIT AT THE TIME
But yes, that is what I say. And he is confused and I try to backpedal and be like I like that you feel comfortable enough with me to share your work and I like people who are proud of what they do and it was very vulnerable of you to let me listen to your poetry and blah blah blah I barely remember what I said because, again, I am so high I could have questioned the very spelling of my own name at this point.
We arrive at my place and I thank GOD all of this transpired within the last fifteen minutes of a 4-hour date and not a moment sooner. I thank him for driving and for agreeing to go to Hamilton Pool with me and then get out of the car. When I open the latch of the gate in front of my condo, he asks if I want to check him out at his place of work later on that week. I hesitate. The question catches me off guard and this latch to my door feels like a fuckin’ Rubik’s cube at this point. (It also took me a solid four minutes to figure out which keys opened my front door, that’s how high I am.)
When I hesitate to answer him, he just says, “Think about it.” And then he drives off like a villain in a teenage 80s flick.
I get inside my condo, strip off all my clothes, and get the shower running. I call my friend Sophie and essentially yell this entire story at her in disbelief. It's hard for me to grapple with the idea that any of this even happened. But it has and after the story is over, I realize something.
I was very tempted to make out with that man. Very, very tempted. And I almost did. I almost threw caution to the wind because I wanted to act on a sexual impulse. I was thinking with my clit instead of my brain, but, thankfully, my brain took over.
And listen. I loathe the stigmas surrounding STIs. They are dumb. 67% of the world’s population has herpes. It is an incredibly common and benign STI. I’ve even had an STI before (chlamydia). But in that moment, while I’m talking on the phone with my friend, it hit me that I could have contracted herpes from a slam poet.
Would herpes be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my life? No. I take all precautions I can to prevent contracting any STI, but I know that contracting something wouldn’t mean that my life was over or that I wasn’t worthy of love or respect. I know those things. But to have, with every outbreak, a reminder that I once made out with a slam poet? This blog post would probably be the last time you ever heard from me. Because I would totally Lance Bass it and make plans to move to the moon.
And so, yeah, that is my worst dating story from Austin.
I recently wrote about how I have been frustrated and sad, but recognizing some ways to look at the situation in order to overcome it. And then I got a phone call from someone who was crying, telling me how much they missed me and how much they needed me. Then I got a text that something atrocious happened to one of my close friends. Then I had something go down with someone I really liked in a city I have three more weeks in. And I just lost it.
I’m 1,700 miles away from people who need me. And continuing the trip makes me feel selfish. Because I am always there for my people, am literally not there right now, and won’t be for a while. And I don’t have my real-life network available to me beyond my phone.
You’d be a sociopath if you just picked up and left the home you’ve lived at your entire life and your entire network of friends and felt nothing. Or just spent 11 days with a friend who lives far from you and really enjoy spending time with and felt zip. Or felt yourself grasping for a steady figure--any steady figure at all because NOTHING is steady in your life right now--while you’re in a city for not very much longer, feel like that person has hurt you, and just be like oh well.
On the road, you’re peaceful, excited and happy. You’re also frustrated, mournful, and overwhelmed. You are all of these things. Sometimes the scale tips in one direction and you have the time of your life in Boston or it tips in the other and you find yourself in Asheville Googling how many Tide pods you’d have to eat in order to meet Jesus.
Also, sometimes that scale tips in the negative direction for a day. Sometimes it’s a week. Sometimes it’s fifteen minutes and comes in and out of your day multiple times like getting hit by a powerful wave after floating on the ocean in the sunshine, minding your business.
I was told by an ex (mind you, this is emotional abuser language):
“If you’re this tough, take-no-shit-type person, then why are you crying?”
Here’s the thing. You can be both. You can be tough as nails and super emotional. And guess what? Usually, the people who are the former are also the latter. Because it takes being in tune with your emotions to be able to truly handle and take care of the shit that comes your way.
You can be a strong bitch and resilient and brave and feel pretty amazing about yourself (your body, your mind, everything). You can also have moments where you’re overcome by confusing, conflicting emotions. When I’m happy, feelin’ myself, or acting silly, it’s genuine. It comes from a place based in reality because I worked really hard to get there and I’m proud of who I am (while recognizing that I am also a work in progress). When I’m sad or upset or feel like breaking down, it’s… also genuine. These are all facets of the same person because I’m not a fucking robot.
I had been told for over a year that I was weak for experiencing pain (and funnily enough, that pain was coming from the person who was telling me that, which is a fabulous tactic when you hurt people and don’t want to own it) and that I should just get over it. It took a while for me to realize the messaging I had been fed was false. Let’s think about what makes us “strong” in our society when faced with negative emotions. What does that look like? It looks like “I’m going to ignore it because I can’t change anything that happened” or “I’m not going to cry” or “I’m going to pull myself up by my bootstraps.”
But here’s the thing: you can’t exactly pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you haven’t processed what’s going on. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps isn’t “tackling the issue.” In fact, actually pulling yourself up by your bootstraps when you haven’t tackled the issue isn’t, well, possible.
It’s difficult to sit with your emotions. I’ll even admit that when I got back from Hawaii, I definitely smoked more than usual and had a hard time eating. I’ll admit that. (And it’s hard to admit that because it’s embarrassing.) I think the natural thing to do is to try to do things that numb the pain. We are human; we are biologically wired to avoid pain because it signals to our body “you are in danger; get out of there!” The thing about distracting yourself, however, is that it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s just delaying the inevitable. You do things to turn off your brain (go into a dating frenzy and fuck everything you see, use substances, overeat/undereat, etc etc; hmmm these sound familiar to me…) and then the feelings you’re trying to avoid just come back with a vengeance. Ignoring your shit doesn't make you strong... because it’s actually really, really easy.
After using convenient coping mechanisms that feel safe and comfortable, you “move on,” but then you go through all of it again later. You feel the pain, stuff it down, feel the pain, stuff it down. And each time it comes back, it’s stronger. It’s a vicious cycle filled with temporary fixes. The hardest thing to do is to actually take time to recognize your emotions and honor them. That takes strength.
And since I’ve made a promise to myself years ago to no longer hurt myself, it’s downright frustrating that I can’t do the stuff I used to do. It feels like FUCK, I WISH I didn’t love myself as much as I do so that the unhealthy coping mechanisms were available to me. This sounds weird, but sometimes I wish I was back in a place of denial and could do things that are bad for me. Because those things, in moments of pain, feel pretty fucking good. Retreating feels good. Undereating/bingeing feels good. Drugs feel good. In the moment, all of these feel pretty fucking amazing. THAT’S WHY MOST PEOPLE DO THEM.
If you know me, you know that I love my friend Shanaz very much. If you REALLY know me, you know that I am indeed in a group chat called "Daddies Anonymous."
Luckily, what I have that feels good and is healthy is the ability to write. At the very least, I have this. But it’s also not enough. Because what do I do? Stay in and write all day?
It feels uncomfortable to reach out to friends sometimes. It feels like the biggest hurdle in the world to get out of bed and go to that spin class. It feels raw and vulnerable to get on Instagram and say hey, I’m having a really hard time and I need some help right now. Please remind me why the fuck I’m even doing this trip. Please remind me that I can do this because I am not feeling that way right now. Please remind me how hearing about my life has brought you comfort because that’s what keeps me going; the messages I get from people who read my stuff and say “I’ve felt that way, too! I feel less alone because of you” or “I feel like I can do things outside of my comfort zone because of you” or “I took charge of my sex life because of you” they are powerful. And not just for me—for everyone. If you ever feel tempted to tell someone how proud you are of them or how much they mean to you or how much they’ve helped you, do it. Something so simple is much more life-changing than you’d ever think. Trust me.
When I write a blog post about how I’m at peace with everything one day and then a few days later I am doubting everything I just wrote, that blog post isn’t a lie. I honestly wrote what was in my heart at the time I was writing it. And that last post wasn’t a mask to be like “ha ha don’t worry everything is fine.” Everything was fine that day… and then the next day it wasn’t. That is called life and being human. There are days when I feel so confident that what I’m doing is the right thing. And then there are days I want to jump ship and return home to support the people who need me and avoid the emotional toll of accepting that the people I meet on the road are fixtures in my life with zero permanence.
A very kind coworker and friend reached out to me and reminded me that “Just like you said in your [last] post, what you share about this journey on your social media is a Photoshop of your life. It’d be the same if you were rooted in your ‘forever place’ for the next 8 months though.”
She is absolutely right. We all have our own shit. And if I weren’t experiencing these negative emotions that result from the trip, I’d undoubtedly experience some from something else. Because life isn’t painless. These travel-related problems that have come up would evaporate… but then be replaced with new ones. Like feeling disappointed in myself or restless because I always want to see new places and, well, wanting to jump off a bridge once I read the lease of a New York City apartment. (And after seeing what my rent in Austin gets me--a dishwasher, a washer/dryer, a parking spot, SILENCE—I can’t go back, you guys. Please don’t make me go back.)
So I’m going to keep going. It’s going to be hard. But what was the point of this trip? To build a new network of friends? (I have enough of you weirdos—and thank goodness I do.) To get into a relationship? (Hell no.) To get into a comfortable routine? (*spits out food laughing*) Or was it to challenge myself, explore, and do things that make me feel good?
This is the time when I go back to the list I make before I arrive in every city filled with things to do, places to eat, and experiences to buy tickets for. And I start checking them off. When I do this, I’m doing the right thing and rediscovering the purpose of this trip. Last night, I got a pedicure, ate at a place I’d been meaning to try (Torchy’s), bought 3 new books at Bookpeople, and started writing this post--and I already feel a tiny bit better. Time heals all wounds, but healthy coping mechanisms speed up the process.
I wrote a blog post about Hawaii (which, trust me, I’ll post soon), but there’s something that’s been on my mind lately. Ever since leaving Big Island (and YES, I did leave the DAY BEFORE the eruption—those streets you see on the news that cracked and started bubbling with lava? I lived 4 miles from there), I’ve been frustrated. Sure, it's the jetlag, the blues that come about after leaving paradise, and the readjusting to all the work and responsibilities I got to take an 11-day break from. But it's also something more than that.
Last night, I went out to dinner with my friend Janson and after a bit of easing it out of me, I admitted that I am jealous of people who get to stay in one spot.
There. I said it.
And I know what you’re thinking. What you’re thinking is a big, whopping FUCK YOU.
“You get to travel the country!”
“You get to go on all these crazy adventures!”
“You get to fuck beautiful people!”
“You get to live without a budget for a year and eat at the best restaurants, do the best activities, and check out all the best places each city has to offer!”
“I would kill to be able to do that!”
I totally get it. But here’s something that hit me lately. Y’all get to see me post ridiculous snapshots of me cracking myself up on dating apps, share big news when it comes to my career (like when a new article of mine gets published or I get invited to do press at a cool tv show), and do things like fuck off to The Four Seasons in Hawaii. But here's something to keep in mind: social media is real life Photoshop. Y’all don’t get to see the shitty parts.
Y’all don’t get to see all of the rude, gross, emotionally draining interactions with men on dating apps I have to endure in order to find the handful of people I actually want to hang out with, me being too exhausted to write or pitch articles (or hounding my editors when I try to collect the money I earned for shit I’ve already written and delivered), or me crying after I leave a city or experience because I have to leave the people I spent time with behind.
I think the thing that’s been hitting me the hardest is the interpersonal relationships part. And here’s why: I am a down ass bitch. I’m a ride or die bitch. I’m the person who picks up the phone, gives advice/reality checks to my closest friends, and will always be there. And this fucks me in a few ways.
Firstly, and most obviously, I’m not able to be there for my people in the way I usually am. I am busy researching and/or booking my next leg of the trip, I am going around doing as much as I can before I leave a city so I can make sure I fully experience it and understand what it’s like to live there, I’m documenting the trip in these blog posts or in my journal (which takes a lot of time), and I’m trying to freelance more so I have more money to play around with as I travel (so I can stay in the best parts of each city, which, as you know, gets expensive and I do not want to lose money on this trip). It doesn’t leave me much time to be there for my friends. And I hate it because, at the core of me, that is not who I am or ever was.
Next, making connections in new cities is hard. I mean, regardless of where you live or if you’re there permanently or are traveling through, making friends as an adult is hard. And when your hobbies are solitary activities like reading and writing, you don’t really drink so the bar scene isn’t appealing, you’re the least competitive person ever so you don’t do sports… and when your biggest hobby is, well, sex, you can’t exactly go to Meetup.com. You can’t exactly make platonic relationships easily. I’ve been so fortunate that I have friends in every city (Cara in Boston! Katie and Meredith in Asheville! Janson in Austin! Vincent in Portland! Shelli in Chicago! A BAJILLION PEOPLE IN LA and I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I can’t live in your garbage city), but I also don’t want to monopolize those people’s time. All of these friends in each city have their own lives and I respect that. I can’t hang with them all the time.
Lastly—and the thing that fucks with me the most—because of traveling, I am not able to get to date the way that I usually do.
Since starting this trip last October, I have dated nonmonogamously, which was incredibly new to me. It was super exciting (and allowed me to fuck 3 of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen in Boston). I was also fresh off an awful breakup and so, even without the travel, I didn’t want to (nor was I capable of) jumping into a new relationship. (It also would have been incredibly unhealthy and I don’t commit to people easily at all anyway.) As I travel, there have been hookups whose names I barely remember and hookups I ultimately befriended. I’ve forged awesome friendships that have a sexual component with multiple people—people I really care about. As a result, suddenly I questioned everything I thought I knew about myself when it comes to monogamy.
Because what I thought was this: these friendships are fulfilling and I’m glad I have the opportunity to get to know multiple people fairly deeply and have sex with them more than once—isn’t that polyamory? Nurturing relationships with a sexual component with multiple people? I realized that is what I have been doing. And guess what? It’s been really enjoyable and satisfying. So what the fuck does that mean? I felt confused.
But what Janson coaxed out of me was that it’s fulfilling right now because I have no opportunity to be monogamous. Nonmonogamy only feels okay because it’s the best I can do right now. But eventually I am going to land in a city permanently. And at that time, would I choose to continue to forge multiple relationships in the way I have been doing? I felt something flicker in my belly and realized the answer is no.
A very recent sexual encounter confirmed that. I took time to get to know this person’s body. When people are open to it, I really enjoy giving long massages to new partners so I can explore and see what feels good to them. (The recipients of this attention more often than not have their mind blown because it’s usually the first time they’ve ever been explored and felt seen in this way because very, very few people take the opportunity to do this with their partners—both casual and committed, monogamous ones.) This makes me feel both incredibly sad to be the first person to do this exercise with them, but also so, so joyful and honored to be that person. When you take the time to explore your partner’s body, the sex is ten thousand times better. And that’s exactly what happened. We had some incredible sex.
And that felt like a microcosm of what monogamy is. Focusing all your energy on that one person. Not asking yourself “what can I get?” but rather “what can I give?” Bringing joy to that person. Growing your sexual relationship and exploring with them. And the right person for you is the person who does all of these things. And there is something you miss out on when you divide your time and energy amongst multiple people.
I am not able to date the way I usually do. I am not able to love (romantically, sexually, platonically) the way I usually do. And that is frustrating. That is why I feel down sometimes. That’s what makes it hard to get out of bed a few days a week. At times, when the alienation or loneliness or, well, quite frankly, sadness that comes with traveling on your own—not being able to be there for my friends, not being able to make new friends easily, not being able to love the way I want to—gets to me, I become not as available. I retreat.
When the stress and unhappiness feels like too much, there have been times when I’ve been tempted to just stay in all day. But I refuse to do that. That is not the purpose of this trip. I’ve legit had to say aloud to myself, “Dana, we are not doing this today.”
Sometimes you have say that to yourself and then get up out of bed, eat the half an ice cream cookie sandwich that’s left over in your freezer for breakfast, put on your belly shirt that says “FEMINIST (not the Lena Dunham kind)”, go to church (Sephora), and then sit outside in the sunshine writing this blog post while listening to Tchaikovsky and drinking your eighth can of lime LaCroix.
Because what is the alternative? Do I cut off all contact with people who I build temporary relationships with because I want to avoid all the pain I’ll experience when I leave? Or do I remain thankful and happy I get to spend whatever time I do get to spend with them (a day, a week, a month, ten years)? Do I, for the same reason, quit the rest of this trip and settle somewhere?
The truth is I really don’t want to stop. I just have to accept the yin of this yang. The expense of the freedom and joy you gain from traveling the country is some pain; it couldn’t all be perfect. And you know why I don’t want to stop? This trip has been an emotional boot camp and has made me a much stronger person who now has a higher threshold for pain, knows how to forgive and move on (something I have struggled tremendously with in the past), and accepts things for what they are instead of trying to will them to become what I want them to be. And so many other transformations within me have happened over the last eight months that I can’t even imagine the other things I’ll learn about myself and the ways I’ll change and grow even more over the next eight.
“We are all on loan to each other,” my therapist wrote to me recently. At first it crushed me, but then it made me feel better. Even the dearest friends of mine—we truly never know the exact amount of time we’ll be fortunate to have each other in our lives. Life happens. And so I’ll try to continue (as difficult as it is) to view each of my social interactions as a blessing instead of anticipating when they’ll be over. Because when I do that, I get to do things like fuck off to Hawaii with someone I met in Asheville or enjoy a day where I get to sing “All I Want for Christmas is You” with new friends on a boat on Lake Travis in Austin or make out topless on a public park bench with a hot dude who ended up fucking my hip out of alignment in Boston. When I accept that nothing is permanent, I actually get to experience life.
Hey so did y’all know that Austin is a sunnier, calmer Boston? Cuz I sure didn’t. Austin is so fabulous, in fact, that I've been doing a lot and am more interested in getting out there and doing more stuff instead of blogging. Writing is usually such a joy for me, but here it feels like a chore. This post will be a little different than usual (more sex though!), but I'd like to start by dispelling some myths:
I’ve done some really amazing things over the last few weeks; I’ve eaten at some truly incredible restaurants (Vespaio, Odd Duck, Loro), gone on dates with a bunch of hot dudes, and went on a few adventures! Here is a sampling of a few of them:
Yeah. It’s been pretty fucking incredible. Let’s talk dudes for a second though.
The men here are gorgeous. There’s no two ways about it. But here’s the thing—I’ve heard that because of the local college (Austin is technically a college town in the same way that Boston is technically a college town), a lot of the men here have Peter Pan syndrome. And because it’s the South, many did not have access to adequate sex ed growing up so nooooooo one gets tested around here. No one. So it’s a lot of dudes fucking a ton of people not-so-safely and not wanting to be in a relationship anytime soon. The second part isn’t a big deal to me because I’m not in a position to date seriously either, but I take huge issue with the first part. Because casual should not mean careless. So am I going to be celibate in Austin? No. And here is how I handle this unfortunate situation.
Let me paint a picture:
A former NFL player came over to my apartment. I wanted to climb him like a tree. He legit had one hand up my shirt and the other down my pants when I pulled back and asked when he was last tested. “No one around here gets tested,” he told me. Not exactly the answer I was hoping for. He asked if he should leave (which, hey, kudos to him for not pressing me on the issue) and I was like DUDE I’m a sex writer. We can have a ton of fun without adhering to the “normal” definitions of sex. Because here’s the thing: anything that requires consent is a sexual act. I hate when sex is put into this box where it’s like “if there was no penetration, it’s not sex.” Because that, my friends, is bullshit.
Now here’s the best part. I didn’t feel safe having penetrative sex or oral with a dude who’s never been tested. And he’s a FORMER NFL PLAYER WHO LOOKS LIKE A MODEL AND IS RETIRED WITH NOTHING TO DO so clearly he is slaying a ton of puss. But you know what? Sometimes you lay naked next to another person and jack each other off (I mean... I give great Handrew Jacksons) and then you lay over that football player’s lap while he spanks you and fingers you while you’re on all fours and it can be EVEN HOTTER THAN PENETRATIVE SEX. Seriously. I’ve been fucked by dudes where the experience was lackluster (not much anymore because I’ve gotten better at pickin’ ‘em, but still). Do you know how sexy it is to drape your leg over another person’s thigh and touch each other’s bathing suit parts? And then to be like fuck it, I’m lying across your lap? It’s a pretty cool thing.
So yes. This is a reminder that you can have super hot, fulfilling, enjoyable sexual experiences while keeping your body safe. I’m getting better at sticking to my guns in this regard. Trust me, having this 6-month rule is hard because I love sex. I will literally drop my pants and bend over for any hot guy who can make me laugh. But if someone who hasn’t been dating monogamously (aka just got out of a relationship), is on Tinder looking for the same thing I am, and the date of their last test was over 6 months ago, I don’t feel super comfortable with that.
And, also, guess what? The STI rate in Austin is off the charts. That should be enough motivation to protect myself, but there’s another reason why I’m so careful: I’ve had an STI before. Twice, actually.
Now, I had never had an STI my entire life—and I slept around a lot in my mid-twenties as a cute lil’ blonde spitfire in NYC (and had a GREAT time). Then, after a breakup right after my twenty-ninth birthday (that’s right! I went 29 years STI-free!), I hit up an old f-buddy, asking him to meet me at a hotel in the Village. He’s a Scorpio, so I barely had to say anything before he agreed. Plus, when a Playboy writer texts you, “I already paid for a bougie ass hotel room, you don’t have to do anything but show up and put it in my butt,” what kinda idiot is really going to turn that down?
Between the last time we hooked up years ago and us hooking up at the hotel (in which we kept getting interrupted by hotel employees gifting us free champagne and then cookies because I knew someone who worked there LOLOL), Scorpio had only slept with one other person. Having gotten out of a year-long monogamous relationship, I missed condomless sex (I know, I know), and I had a history with this dude. We were friends. I trusted him. I told him I had gotten tested recently and that I knew I wasn’t within my ovulation window (I used rhythm and pullout method before I got my IUD—I only recommend this if you have a very regular cycle, know how to track your cervical mucus and know your body very well). “I’m clean, too,” he told me.
A few weeks later, I went for my yearly exam at my gyno and got tested. The test came back positive for chlamydia.
I have never felt the panic I have felt upon being told I had an STI. I was mortified even though it’s a very curable STI (you take one pill, you avoid sex for a week, and then you’re good). It’s like having a cold in your vagina. It seriously isn’t that big of a deal, it’s the most common STI, and, as stupid as it sounds, it really put things into perspective for me. I did internalize a lot of the stigma that comes with STIs—that they happen because you’re not careful and/or don't have self-respect. But I legit had done all that I could do (I had gotten tested right before I had seen him) and it still happened because of his ignorance. It also made me realize that STIs happen all the time, people weren’t “bad” for having them, and the fear of STIs is worse than the STI itself.
But regardless of how low-grade the illness is, I was incensed. I texted Scorpio. “You said, ‘I’m clean, too,’ so when was the last date of your test? I’m not sure how this could have happened.”
“Oh, I wasn’t tested,” he responded. “I just only had that one partner between you now and you then and didn’t have any symptoms, so I thought I was clean.”
I wanted to reach through the phone and chop off his (albeit perfect—length and girth-wise—besides for the chlamydia) dick.
When you don’t know your status, you put other people at risk. Because Scorpio didn’t know what was going on in his own body, he not only didn’t know if he had chlamydia, he also didn’t know if he had herpes, gonorrhea, hell, even HIV. And even though he gave me something that was curable with a pill, he could have given me something that wasn’t.
“Never say ‘I’m clean’ unless you know your status. Got it?” I asked. He got it. And here’s the thing. I like Scorpio. Yes, he’s super-hot (and one of those dudes who doesn’t really realize it, WHICH IS EVEN HOTTER) and there’s a reason he was the first dude I texted after my breakup—he’s not an asshole. He didn’t do it to be a jerk. He just didn’t know. 90% of men are carriers, meaning they can have something and show zero symptoms. He didn’t know about things like incubation periods (the amount of time it takes for an STI to show on a test if you have it—for example, if you contract herpes one day and get tested for it the next day, it won’t show), how yearly testing is only recommended for people who use protection every time they have sex, how no symptoms does NOT mean you’re free of STIs, how you have to ask for herpes and HIV on your full STI panel because if you walk in and say “I would like a full STI panel” those two infections are not considered part of standard testing. He didn’t know any of this and, truthfully, most people don’t.
And so, months later, when I started the trip and got to Boston, I began asking about testing before I started hooking up with any dude.
A fighter I fucked in Boston said he had to get tested for STIs because there was potential for bloodshed and illnesses that are spread by bodily contact in fighting—this meant getting tested for herpes and HIV. For some reason, I didn’t think to ask about other STIs because those are two of the big ones. And then he put the condom on incorrectly (I was stoned and he DIDN'T PINCH THE TIP uggghhhh, which didn't cause the condom to break, but it caused spillage) and gave me chlamydia for the SECOND TIME six months after getting it from Scorpio. I honestly should have known because fighter was CRAZY DELICIOUS and gave off the I-fuck-a-lot-of-college-girls vibe. (And you know what, Fighter? Bless you. Go fuck those college girls because you’re amazing in bed and will bring those co-eds so much joy. But people under 26 have the highest rates of chlamydia.)
That’s right. 29 years STI-free and then, boom, the clap twice in a year. Goddammit. (And both were due to my partners’ ignorance. Not mine.)
So needless to say, I’ve learned lessons. And one of those lessons has been that I can do everything I can to be safe—I get tested regularly (99% of the time that means monthly), I use protection consistently (I’ve had some slipups in the past, but now it never happens), and I talk about testing with everyone before anything goes down. But at the end of the day, I don’t have control over other people. So if you ever do come down with something, this is my chance to say: please don’t beat yourself up over it. Try your best, be as safe as you can, but, yanno, shit happens and you’re not a bad or dirty person if it does.
So as much as this stuff isn't ideal, the silver lining is that it’s a great litmus test. I’m a lot of fun in bed. I’m a respectful hookup and I’m not clingy (I never sleep over and as one of my favorite friends told me the other day: “Unless you have an engagement ring or a cock ring, you’re not sleeping in my bed” – my motto as well). And if testing is too big of a hoop to jump through for you, I don’t want to fuck you. You don’t deserve this pussy. Decent people hear my rule and say “Oh shit, I’ll get right on that.” And those people have been great.
And another reminder: just because a dude gets tested doesn’t mean he can fuck you without a condom. Because a clean test is NOT a free fuckpass. It means “Great job. Keep baggin’ your junk!”
So listen, Austin. I like you and all, but I’m not getting the clap for the third time in a year because your men are hot and stupid.
First off, it’s my 30th birthday! And how have I been celebrating this week? Well. I drove to Austin by myself. So that’s a thing.
When I started this trip in October, I spent 2 months in Boston (UGH, I MISS IT) and then went home for 6 weeks for the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year’s). Then I went to Asheville for 5 weeks and had to come home for a month because I needed clearance from my gyno to drive cross-country; the last thing she or I wanted was to be on the side of the road with another ruptured ovarian cyst. (I did get that clearance—albeit begrudgingly—but I still need to get another follow-up while I’m in Austin; my gyno wasn’t happy with what she saw on the ultrasound).
My point is that for the last two legs of the trip, I had “breaks” home in New York. And those breaks were great. A guy I fooled around with in Boston who used to live in NYC said the first time he returned to New York, he felt as if his eyes had been dilated at an optometrist’s office. When I returned home after Boston, I couldn’t agree more. I felt completely disoriented on the subway and overwhelmed by the sounds and crowds and energy. When I got back home from Asheville, however, I was like OH THANK GOD. A REAL CITY WITH PEOPLE WHO ALL DON’T LOOK THE SAME AND PLENTY OF THINGS TO DO AND GOOD FOOD THAT CONTAINS ACTUAL NUTRITION AND VARIETY. I wanted to kiss the piss-scented sidewalk.
So what had I been doing at home in NYC for the last month? Well, I went to all my favorite places (Sweetgreen! Babeland! Journelle! Monster Cycle!), my day job has been crazy busy (my boss got fired!), I’ve been freelancing (THIS and THIS and THIS!), I went to a ton of doctor’s appointments (I have another cyst! And an anal fissure!), I booked my Denver Airbnb (weed!), planned a big "project" that I’ll be able to talk about in two weeks (IT’S SO GOOD), and I even got asked to appear on Buzzfeed’s morning Twitter show “AM to DM” (a total blast!). I crammed so much shit into a single month that before I knew it, it was time to drive to Texas. And for the first time on this trip, it was "real." I had wanted to drive to Asheville, but couldn't because of that damn ER trip in Boston. This time, I was driving. There weren't going to be breaks at home anymore. Once I left, I was committing to 7-8 months on the road.
Now, I mapped my route out months ago. I planned to drive 8 hours to Virginia, crash for the night, and then drive 7 hours to Atlanta, where I have family. I don’t know how high I was when I rationalized that 15 hours of driving in 2 days would be a normal undertaking. Because Jesus Christ was I wrong. Holy hell.
Now here are a few thoughts I have about driving for long periods of time:
Here’s the thing about my car. Now, I am not a bougie person at all when it comes to cars. In fact, I had the option to buy a new car for this trip, but decided against it just in case the worst happened (I’d rather total a 2001 Honda Whateverthefuck than anything else). So my car is old. I’m talking has a CD player old. But you know what? I hate touchscreen shit in cars and prefer not to have them because with actual buttons I can feel for the controls without taking my eyes off the road. I also have super fond memories of my car in high school (a black Dodge Neon named “Baby;” RIP) and you bet your ass I kept all of my CDs from middle and high school (REMEMBER THOSE ZIP-AROUND BOOKS WITH THE PLASTIC SLEEVES? YEP) and so for 7 hours from New York to Virginia, I listened to shit like Coheed & Cambria, Motion City Soundtrack and the soundtrack from RENT (because I was a very angry teen who was consistently on the honor roll and smoked weed, like, once), singing every lyric. I can’t remember shit because there’s a giant Ambien-sized hole in my brain (recommended Ambien usage: 1-2 months, how long Dana had been on it: THREE YEARS), but for some reason I know every lyric to every song on O-Town’s second album (take it from me—they should have stopped after the first one).
Do you know how fun it is to listen to albums that hit you right in the feels as a preteen for the first time as an adult? I legit burst out loud laughing at a gas station in Virginia when Erik from O-Town sang “Now I’ve been around the world tonight/And I can’t find my lover/Now I’ve been around the world tonight/And I CAN’T EVEN FIND MYSELF.” Incredible.
When I pulled into fuckin’ Shitkick, Virginia (no, no, I’m joking—where I stayed was a very bougie neighborhood filled with colonial homes and mansions; I just had to drive through Shitkick to get there), I felt like a deflated balloon. My Airbnb host was the absolute nicest woman—an art professor at the local college—and I could tell she wanted to chat more, but I didn’t have the energy (I was very kind and polite! Just very quiet). I think she understood. When her husband came home, I heard her excitedly stage whisper “She’s a writer from New York City!” which was very sweet. I was so wiped I settled for the Applebee’s down the road, which had muted Fox News on their TVs and Tatu’s “All the Things She Said” playing on the sound system. (Interesting choice, Virginia Applebee’s. Interesting choice.) After that, I took a bath with a plenty of Epsom salt (my body was so sore) in my private bathroom and ate peanut butter M&Ms in the bathtub.
My father (who has driven from New York to Florida and back) warned me that after a long drive, your body is so wired from being on constant alert that even though you’re exhausted, you can’t sleep. That happened to me. Have you ever spent a day at the beach body-surfing and then that night, while you’re trying to sleep, your body still feels like it’s bobbing in the ocean? That night, when I shut my eyes, I was still in three lanes feeling cars go by in my peripheral vision. It was awful. My body was on autopilot and couldn’t rest. But the next day, I got up super early, drove to my overnight Airbnb in Montgomery, Alabama (in a rough neighborhood), ordered a pizza and crashed like the dead. The following morning, I just wanted to get back on the road so the driving planned out for that weekend would finally be over. I got up at 7, was the first person at the local Goodyear (something was up with my tire; I got it fixed), and got to Atlanta around 3 in the afternoon.
I spent the week with my uncle’s ex-wife (who I don’t feel comfortable calling aunt because she’s, like, six years older than me and a total babe), her awesome husband, my 11-year-old bookworm cousin aka the only man I’ll ever trust or love (“I know all about how babies are made. I know everything from the cerebral cortex to the gluteus!” – my cousin, who definitely does not take after me at all, nuh uh, no way), and an 18-month old lil’ chickie who is all smiles and snuggles. Vivi’s favorite word is “donut” and she isn’t a big fan of wearing pants so I guess what I’m trying to say is I lived with the baby version of me.
Living at Jen and John’s was wonderful because Jen eats mostly vegan (I’m mostly vegetarian) and so I’d come into the kitchen and a meal would already be on the table for me. I made lattes with a real espresso machine and milk steamer. The downstairs apartment is super private and I had my own kitchenette (that Jen filled with snacks) and my own bathroom. “When my friends get divorced, they usually stay here.” – Jen, my hero
My week was spent working 90% of the time, but it was a great stay. I just needed to unwind and take care of myself. Driving takes a lot out of you. Here are some tips I want to pass on after driving across half the country:
Once I left Atlanta, I stayed overnight in Baton Rouge, and then by afternoon the next day, I was in my BEAUTIFUL condo (in an incredible location) in Austin. This is also the first leg of the trip I’m living on my own and it is *amazing*. I am fully clothed about 20% of the time and that estimate is generous. There is a lot of naked dancing going on. And naked getting stoned. And naked eating. You get the picture. Living alone is the tits.
I’ve only been in Austin a few days, but so far I’m getting very positive vibes, similar to what I was experiencing in Boston. I also randomly had a crazy hot ~sessual encounter~ the second night I was here (completely unplanned), so that may color my thoughts slightly. But overall, I am so proud that I made it. Driving across half the country is hard. I have joined the ranks of women who have driven across half the country by themselves. (I also have the distinct honor of being probably the only person in the history of West Virginia who has ever ordered a salad from a Burger King rest stop. And it was most definitely just the lettuce and tomatoes they put on the burgers and a piece of grilled chicken someone dropped behind the grill in 1996. Homegirl was charred.) I couldn’t be prouder of myself and I couldn’t have more positive vibes about Austin. Good things will happen here.
A few weeks ago, I scared the crap out of my AirBNB host because I was sitting out on the back porch around midnight in complete darkness. She had gone out to recycle something and I made her jump. The mist that had been beading on my canvas parka was turning into steady rain. I was chain-smoking even though I hate cigarettes and never smoke. Looking back, I realize this is something Dana in College™ would have done when she felt like being a total shit.
My AirBNB is very nice. It’s so convenient to everything that walking everywhere isn’t weird, the house is super clean and smells nice, there’s a dog (!) who I say “Good morning, sir!” in a dumb baby voice to every morning, and did I mention that my host is a therapist?
So when she found me on the back porch like a scene from a Tim Burton movie, we struck up a conversation. I told her about how miserable I was here. How it was very hard to connect with people. How I was bored. How it was emotionally draining to not be able to date (one of my favorite things to do!) much because of the sheer amount of misogyny—subtle and not so subtle—perpetrated by the men here and how none of them were used to being called out on it. How I missed talking to others with big dreams and big ambitions (outside of getting married, a house, and kids) and an entrepreneurial spirit. How no one was weird here outside of “Phish fan”-brand weird (we get it—you smoke weed and wear tie dye and live in an RV voluntarily). How I had been desperately looking for the people with insane origin stories, wants outside of staying in Asheville forever, and interest in having something other than “average” conversation. (Please note that I ultimately found some fabulous people here who these attributes did not apply to, but they were few and far between.)
My host stood in the doorway in the freezing cold in only her pajamas to talk to me about how the periods of discomfort in our lives teach us the most about ourselves. Now listen. My host is a total badass with a degree in wilderness therapy. She has dug holes in the ground to sleep in. She has worked in places that are only accessible by helicopter. I’m living in a house with heat and toilet paper and coffee. There is no comparison in terms of the level of survival skills we have had to develop and employ. But we talked about the feeling of being by yourself and how it shapes the mind. It fucking sucks, but it opens you up in a way that is very unique. It’s raw and it hurts. Something I wasn’t expecting from this leg of the trip is how I became more receptive to pain and more aware.
Everyone’s averse to discomfort; no one likes being sad. We distract ourselves, we self-medicate (in healthy and unhealthy ways), we try really hard to avoid sitting with our feelings. Because feelings suck. In Boston, I wasn’t sad. I was having the time of my life. I actually wanted to extend my trip (but couldn’t or else my mother would kill me for not being home for Thanksgiving). There was no sitting with sad feelings in Boston. My three factory settings were: blissed out, horny, and both.
In Asheville, I let myself be sad. I let myself spend a day in bed bingeing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (I very rarely watch tv), I let myself call my mom, I let myself wrap myself in blankets and eat a hundred pistachios for dinner when I was too sad to leave the house, I let myself cry when I missed people. And, most importantly, I didn’t judge myself for it.
There was a moment where I looked into changing my flight so I could come home early. I even pitched a story to Playboy where I’d attend a sex party in Brooklyn a week before I was supposed to leave Asheville. I actually did want to go to the sex party (because how fun would it be to write about that?!), but I was more interested in them accepting the pitch so that I had an excuse to get the fuck out of here.
There was a part of me that knew I’d feel immediate joy upon landing back in New York, but it would be fleeting. I emailed my therapist, who said she supported whatever decision I made. She reminded me that I am allowed to give myself the option to leave early if that’s what I needed to do for my mental health. I don’t believe in “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stick it out” mentality; I believe in doing whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. I believe in being kind to myself and nixing plans if they don’t end up being in my best interest. Leaving early felt like taking care of myself.
I gave myself enough flexibility in the trip that if I ever wanted to stay in a certain city for longer because I loved it or wanted to leave early because I hated it, I could. That was a gift I gave myself before the trip ever started. But, deep down, I knew that once that flash of joy upon returning to New York passed, I’d be filled with regret. Because somewhere inside myself I knew I could do it.
Playboy didn’t end up accepting the sex party pitch and I’m glad they didn’t. Mostly because I pitched something much, much better afterwards and I have a feeling they’ll go for it, but also because it made me more resilient. Even though I absolutely hated it, I rode out the rest of my time here. I did it.
In Boston, I learned I am enough. In Asheville, I learned that I am fucking strong.
So thanks, Asheville, for testing my limits and forcing me to live in some discomfort. Thanks for putting me through something that was important to facilitate the realization of a few things I needed to recognize. Thank you also for:
1. The opportunity to meet someone I had been online buddies with for years (List App, despite being dead, still brings people together!). Katie’s a wonderful person who let me gripe to her about dating in Asheville, who checked in on me when I wasn’t feeling great, and didn’t judge me when we went to French Broad Chocolate Lounge and I washed down carrot cake with hot chocolate because I have a sweet tooth some doctors have referred to as “concerning.”
2. Meeting a new friend from my old life in NYC publishing! What are the chances someone from Hachette Book Group (who left right before I got there!) now lives in Asheville? (Also, is there any greater joy than reminiscing about former coworkers with someone hilarious? Especially when the company was a complete insane asylum?) Meredith introduced me to the best restaurant in Asheville (Copper Crown) and is also responsible for my most fun night here in which we went to a Britney Spears-themed dance party WHERE THE DJ DIDN’T PLAY ANY BRITNEY SPEARS, took a 90s limo to a dive bar where us and our four friends were the only people on the dance floor when we got there (and then the whole bar was dancing by the time we left), and I didn’t get home until 3am. We also witnessed a drunk chick refer to a perineum as a type of flower, which, I’m sorry, will be the only thing I will be able to think about for the next 12 years.
Oh, btw, THIS IS THE ACTUAL LIMO THAT PICKED US UP:
3. Being the leg of the trip where I finally got off Ambien for the third (and last) time in three years. It SUCKED (it is so, so hard, so GO ME for actually doing it), but it was important to get off of it because it had caused me to develop NOTICEABLE memory loss and I was like oh boy definitely don't want to forget how to, yanno, find words or think or whatever.
4. The knowledge that I can never live in a small town. By learning that I cannot live in Asheville, I can now say without a single doubt that I can’t live in places like Burlington VT or Portland ME or Crotchcheese NH or that charming cottage Kate Winslet owns in “The Holiday.” Before this trip, I had always wondered.
5. The necessary quiet (and pain, ha) to get so much fucking writing done.
So that’s it! Bye, Asheville! See you again never, but thanks for the memories.
A lot of weird stuff has been happening. The best way I can describe it is that the universe has been giving me what I need to keep my spirits up enough to not hightail it outta Asheville. Or perhaps it's a reward for having the wherewithal to stay here. I had been having a truly atrocious time in Asheville, but I guess Mother Nature didn't want this leg to be a complete bust. Here's what's happened since the last time I blogged:
I told the most recent dude I slept with that he should get his jizz tested for holy water. I still don't feel great about Asheville, but I can't deny that some happy connections have been coming up lately.
Here are some other moments that have brought me joy:
OUR FIRST VIGNETTE:
I went to a movie about the Trockadero ballet troupe called "Rebels on Pointe." Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is a company created in the 70s right after the Stonewall riots. It is entirely comprised of gay men and the film is about perseverance, joy, and living your truth. I highly recommend it.
I knew it was going to be sold out because it was a one-night showing, so I bought a ticket online. A ticket was sent to my phone with a barcode and a QR code. I get to the theater, attempt to walk up to the door and the bouncer stops me. I show him the ticket on my phone and he tells me that I have to wait on the huge line so I can show the box office my e-ticket, at which point they will print me a paper ticket. “What’s the point of buying a ticket online if I still have to wait on the box office line?” I asked. “There’s a barcode right here.”
The bouncer didn’t budge. “You need to wait on that line, ma’am.”
The movie was starting in 5 minutes. He’s still not letting me in, so I go wait on the line. Behind me, I see an older couple join the line after going through the same ordeal and we lock eyes in a can you believe this shit kinda way. “Why did we get tickets sent to our phone if we can’t use them?” the man says. “That’s stupid.”
“I want to complain, but I’ll turn into the bitchy New Yorker that I am,” I admit.
“We’re from Jersey,” the woman says. “We’re probably worse.”
“I knew I recognized my people!” I tell them. We laugh.
Finally, I get my paper ticket, show it to the bouncer with a side-eye, grab some popcorn and head in. It’s packed, but I find a seat tucked into a corner in the back. When I sit down, I hear someone say “Helloooooo!” behind me. It’s dark, but the person is waving. I thought it was someone mistaking me for someone else when I look over and realize it’s the couple I was just standing on line with.
“So how are you liking Asheville?” the wife asks me.
“Oh, I fucking hate it here!” I say cheerily.
“Us, too!” she says.
OUR SECOND VIGNETTE:
One night I go to a paint-your-own-pottery place because there’s nothing else to fucking do and I’m bomb at arts and crafts. Whatever weird, shy, artsy kid gets me as their stepmom (cuz Lord knows I only date divorced men with kids) is gonna be jazzed as hell when I start busting out the lanyards and pom-pom creatures and one of these bad boys:
(^^Anyone who had one of these growing up definitely remembers the distinct smell of cray-pas)
Also, when you haven’t had sex in a couple weeks, the mind starts to deteriorate and you end up doing things like oh, I dunno, painting your own fucking pottery. I made a vase.
OUR THIRD AND FINAL VIGNETTE:
Last weekend, my AirBNB host was traveling and so I was alone in the house (my favorite man in Asheville—my host’s pitbull mix named RD—was staying with her bf) when at the last minute, a couple rented the room next to mine. 90% of the time that room is empty. The other 10% it’s rented by very young couples (I’m talking college age) trying to have a romantic getaway. And then they see me, a wizened old crone, slither out of my room periodically to drink another gallon of coffee on my way to the bathroom and they get a load of this:
On more than one occasion, the boyfriend of the couple (always the boyfriend), opens the door to my bedroom and the embarrassedly says, “Oh, I didn’t know anyone else was here.” Well, guess what, motherfucker. I’m here to make your getaway 200% less romantic.
This weekend, an older couple celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary came. They were incredibly nice and spoke with thick, syrupy drawls. One morning the husband and I struck up conversation just as I was heading out for the day. He was surprised to learn that I walk everywhere. It was freezing out that particular morning. “We’re headed into downtown anyway. Let us give you a ride,” he offered. I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. When we went out front, I realized his truck had the name of a church emblazoned on the side of it.
The very nice couple dropped me off, I went about my day, and on the walk home I got high and ordered my favorite Stoned Meal (small plain pizza, cookie, and Thai wings with ranch—that last combo sounds disgusting, and, trust me, it is, but when you’re stoned it tastes GREAT) from Mellow Mushroom. When I got home, the couple was there WORKING ON SOME ARTS AND CRAFTS LIKE THE MOST ADORABLE THING IN THE WORLD (she was making a blanket, he was making collages). I had received an email alert that the delivery guy was nearby so I sat in the living room with them because I figured it would only be a few minutes.
It was not a few minutes.
You don’t know true fear until you find yourself high off your ass talking to a couple who drives a church vehicle while you wait for your food to be delivered. I think I may have been shouting but I don’t know if I had been shouting because I was experiencing the kind of high where I wasn’t quite sure of the volume of my own voice.
Regardless, they seemed very happy to talk to me and wanted to know what kind of stuff I had been working on. The next morning, the husband left me a CD of his music and wrote, “It was a pleasure. Write on!"
Remember how in Boston I had an amazing group of sex-positive friends, had some mind-blowing sex with witty, hot (and woke! and body-positive!), smart men, ate at places that made me vocalize some “yum” sounds or roll my eyes with pleasure, went to the most interesting museums and soul-nourishing symphony performances? Remember all of that? Remember how excited and blissful and happy I was?
I feel the exact opposite of that in Asheville. I’m not going to mince words: I fucking hate it here. It’s not even that it’s kinda lame and I’m just waiting out my time until I leave with a vague disinterest. I am so deeply unhappy that I considered changing my flight so I can go home early. That’s how bad it is. Here are some of my major gripes:
After a few weeks here, I found myself circling back to the same restaurants, the same shops, the same places for coffee/tea, the same yoga studios—some of which are really good, but the lack of choice really gets to me. It makes me feel more isolated and stuck than I already do. I already live in a small town with few sexual prospects (remember my last blog post?) and even fewer friends. Throw in routine (which is absolutely maddening to me), and I feel claustrophobic. I feel like I’m losing my goddamned mind.
One of the blessings of being a mentally ill child (who is now properly medicated), an Aries, and an ENFJ is that I can always entertain myself. This is also a trait passed down from both my father (who loves to play practical jokes--like planting produce from the grocery store into our neighbor’s garden to see if he would notice) and my mother who, well, just watch this:
Case and point, your Honor.
So, feeling like receiving a lobotomy would be an upgrade from my current situation, I decided to turn to my old stand-by whenever I need to make myself laugh: I decided to make one of my famous Eye-Catching Tinder Profiles™.
See, *I* thought this was funny. Apparently, the residents of Asheville did not appreciate it because less than two hours later, I was banned from Tinder. So there went that.
Cut to me walking around on a cold, rainy night listening to “The Only Living Boy in New York,” (I know what you’re thinking and, yes, I was trying to give myself clinical depression), coming back to my house, stripping off all my clothes, and lying in bed listening to Bach’s Goldberg variations while journaling. This scene has happened on more than one occasion.
When you’re alone with not many friends around, you’re not dating, and there isn’t much to do—I was famous for being go, go, go every day all the time—when you have zero distractions, you’re alone with your thoughts. You’re alone with yourself. I repeat: when you exhaust all the distractions, you’re alone with yourself. And that can be a very uncomfortable position to be in. It’s not loneliness. It’s just a feeling we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to live in very often, if at all.
I’m allowing myself to live in the quiet for a little bit, to be alone with my thoughts, but doing that 24/7 would turn me into Eleven’s mom in Stranger Things 2. So let me, for the purpose of this post, focus on the things that bring me joy here and let me take a break from my own mind. Even though I hate it here, I didn’t want to write an entire entry shitting on Asheville because, first off, I try to not be a negative person and secondly, I recognize how insufferable it would be for a single, 29yo woman living the fucking dream traveling around the country on her own to complain for 1,800 words.
Here are some of the things I do like here:
Tupelo Honey: Seriously, you guys, I have to stop eating so many goddamn biscuits or else I’ll never be able to take a shit again. Here, they come free with every meal and every time I say to the waiter “I’ll just pick,” but then cut to me slathering whipped butter, honey, and blueberry jam on every last bite of those damn things. Some of the other things I like here are the beet and pecan salad with grilled chicken, this non-alcoholic lavender/lime drink with an egg white in it (I would honestly go just for that alone), and the wedge salad (which is not normal for me, but I was crazy hormonal and craving salt and meat). (Be proud of me for not making a perverted joke here about craving salt and meat.) There is also a server here named Jamie who is the most delightful human on the planet and we talked about musicals and NYC and I lowkey want him to be my uncle.
White Duck Tacos: Everyone told me to try the lamb gyro taco and they were right. It’s the best one. I also had the queso, which was good, but let’s be real here: can you really fuck up queso?
Early Girl Café: I usually get their sandwich specials because I’m not a big breakfast person. Love the homemade garlic salad dressing here. One time I ordered a tempeh reuben and they accidentally gave me a corned beef reuben and the manager came out in a panic expecting me to flip a shit, but I laughed hysterically, assured them that I am not vegan, and admitted I thought it was the most meat-like tempeh I’d ever tasted. I was like damn, the vegetarian options here are incredible.
Curate: This was something more up my alley. The waiter was really cool and put together a tasting menu of all his favorite things (I’m so glad my date was feeling as adventurous as I was—I love that shit!). We had goat cheese stuffed peppers, a charcuterie board with different types of meats, tomato jam toast with manchego, lamb kabobs, octopus (my date ate that), and two desserts (an almond torte with cherry sorbet and an apple tart with apple butter and goat milk cream, which were both fantastic). [Please note that I went on a date here with someone absolutely wonderful and the best dude I've met on this entire “Eat, Drive, F*ck” trip so far, but I can’t write about it because I’m planning on submitting the story to a large publication and it can’t be previously published in any form.]
Mamacita’s: This is like a mom & pop Chipotle. Sounds pretty basic, but they have this citrus tofu here that’s out of this world and their guac is seriously on point.
Dobra Tea House: I really dig this place. It’s probably my favorite place in all of Asheville. Their chai is the closest to what I had in Africa, which is incredible. The only thing I don’t like is that you have to ring a bell in order to get a server’s attention, which makes me feel like a huge dick, so I never do it. I just see a server and say, “Excuse me, but ringing this bell makes me feel like a huge dick.”
Without a car, I’m not able to do much exploring outside of Asheville, BUT I now know the city like the back of my hand. This is no large feat considering the city is small af. Here are some of the things I’ve done:
Minx: This is the only place I shop because a solid 95% of the clothing stores here are filled with frocks for deranged art teachers:
See what I mean? There’s an Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters here, but those are two organizations that have a history of supporting anti-LGBT legislation, so I don’t shop there. And I try to support local businesses whenever possible. Minx is the only store here that carries clothing that fits my style and can ensure that my collection of crop tops is growing and thriving.
I also bought an insane silver-and-black striped velvet wrap dress that makes me look like a sexy female Beetlejuice who just started her junior year at art school. Plus, the music they play in this store is dope and I always end up singing along to it. I’m sorry, but if “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell comes on and I don’t sing, please call Will Smith because it means an alien has removed my insides and is using what’s remaining as a skin suit.
Wake Foot Spa: One of the best spa experiences of my life. You put your feet in a giant copper pot to soak and a nice lady massages your legs, hands, and neck/shoulders, brings you tea and cookies, and opens your bottle of Valium for you when two soccer moms start talking incessantly next to you while you’re trying to relax and your hands are too slippery from the oil that was massaged into ‘em.
Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar: You’re not supposed to chill here without buying a drink, but guess what, Park Book Exchange? Ya girl doesn’t drink, so, yes, I will park my ass in this delicious-looking nook and ya can’t tell me nuthin’. This isn’t a great place to buy books—I’d highly recommend Malaprops for that.
Asheville Salt Cave: I went here stoned off my ass and I’m pretty sure the staff knew I was stoned off my ass. But it was great! I felt asleep in a zero gravity chair while the salt worked its voodoo magic on my chi or whatever the fuck it’s supposed to do.
Violet Owl Wellness: This is my preferred yoga studio. The classes are on a sliding scale so it’s affordable, the teachers are always amazing, and the studio is clean and uncrowded. It’s a half hour walk from where I live, but I’d rather take the long walk than go to the insufferable yoga studio closer to me (the Embodiment Center; don’t go here).
A former missionary WHO USED TO DO BIBLE TRANSLATION OVERSEAS made me come from oral three times in one night and then the following night made me squirt. I’m no longer agnostic, you guys. This is my ringtone now. It's crazy.
Asheville is kinda cool, I guess.
This post is a little overdue. There have been a lot of contributing factors, including me not anticipating this leg of the trip being challenging beyond my wildest dreams, some major changes happening at my 9-5 job, and, as a result of my eating habits in the South, my blood stream becoming 80% biscuit. I’m moving a little slower than usual.
Now let’s get into it.
I don’t believe in New Years resolutions. Many of the most popular ones involve measuring and equating your body or your mind with your self-worth. I want to always think of myself in ways that I am and how to strengthen those things instead of focusing on what I am not. And I don’t do well with rules because I always question them anyway.
That said, I made some promises to myself this year that I am determined to keep. And they are promises that honor myself, my time, and my worth. They include:
That last one seems like it would be pretty easy to follow. But what I’m talking about is fucking someone I feel meh about: I don’t hate them, but I’m not reaaaaally jonesing for them either. I’m only going to fuck people because I want to, not because I’m curious as to what sex with them would be like. Herein lies my downfall—because I’m a sex writer, sometimes I get myself into situations solely because I’m curious about them and not because they are true to my personal sexual desires. Sometimes I meet a hot guy and I’m like “I wonder what they’re like in bed” as opposed to “I am dying to fuck them.” Those two things are worlds apart. I encourage curiosity in all forms, but the sex I desire for myself is more based in want than solely just to sate curiosity. This is a huge lesson I've learned. A few years ago, sex-because-I’m-curious served me well! It helped me figure out what I like and what I don’t like! But now I know. I don’t need to wonder anymore.
Why is this relevant to Asheville? Well, because I have been presented with some opportunities to have sex out of curiosity (or because someone likes me) than out of actual desire. But here’s the problem: connection is necessary for desire. And I don’t connect with many people here. I lucked out with the booty call I initiated the first week I got to Asheville. After our hookup, he took a trip out of state to visit his primary partner, and with our mutual itch scratched, we agreed to hang out as friends and just be activity partners in the future. He was so cool about it:
So aside from that lucky friend find, there have been only two people I’ve agreed to go on dates with. Two. I’ll get into those later.
The thing about Asheville is that it’s small. Hellbent on never using Tinder again ever since I quit the app cold turkey three years ago (Tinder, for me, was more addictive than peeling sunburned skin, black tar heroin, and sour cream & onion Pringles combined), I used OKCupid and Bumble for the first few weeks here. For the first time in my life, OKCupid told me they had run out of people with match percentages high enough to recommend to me. I logged onto the site for weeks to see the same 30 or so people. And of those 30 people, let’s say I was attracted to 8. And of those 8, only one didn’t answer “yes,” to my top three dealbreaker questions:
“Are you okay with acting out a rape fantasy if your partner asked you to?” (I understand that this is contingent upon your partner asking you to, but if you can maintain an erection while pretending to rape someone, I don’t want you anywhere near me.)
“Do you own a gun?” (I don’t feel safe enough to sleep over a stranger’s place knowing this; I very rarely invite people to mine because I want to be in control of when I bounce.)
“Do you strongly prefer to date someone of your own skin color/racial background?” (I can’t tell you how many profiles had this question openly answered in the affirmative. WTF. THESE ARE THINGS I HAVE NEVER RAN INTO IN NYC. I’d say 20% of men in Boston had answered yes. Here, it’s around 90-95%. And when I ask people about it, they have no shame or remorse in answering yes. It’s FUCKED.)
Bumble wasn’t much better in terms of finding a large section of people; I recognized many of them from OKCupid. Eventually, I started talking to people here and being like WHAT GIVES. WHY IS THERE NO ONE ON THESE APPS, at which point I was politely informed that everyone uses Tinder here. Everyone. That is pretty much the only app that people use.
I never wanted to return to Tinder, but I had no choice. I used the strategy I did in NYC; I made something I knew would stand out. I used my initials instead of my name and didn’t list my job or university. It became very clear that everyone knew I was the new girl in town. And they were all excited to talk to me. Here are some things I noticed:
I don't mean to come across as an elitist (absolutely none of the things I've outlined above are negatives at all), but it's hard for me to connect with people here because my friend group in NYC is full of creatives from all over the globe. I won’t get into it, but men here don’t understand me. I’ve been called directionless, uneducated, and ("jokingly," according to one person) a cunt. Many use subtle (or even overt) misogynistic language when talking to me and it’s clear that they’ve never been called out on it. Ever. They don’t know how to process a confident, intelligent woman calling them on their bullshit.
God, that guy even made bitchy New Yorker Dana come out. But this one drove me absolutely nuts:
And so from such a small pool of people to choose from, when it came down to deciding who to meet up with, I narrowed it down to two people that seemed more socially aware, interesting, and kind.
And then I met up with them.
One was meh. I had met him on OKCupid. I’ve gotten into the habit of mentally noting if the person I’m on a date with asks me any questions about my life because all too often, the count is zero. This was one of those dates. The food was mediocre, the conversation was uninteresting, and it was made worse when he, out of nowhere, asked if I was wearing makeup. Confused, I said I was wearing some. I don’t wear much, but I do wear some. “Oh good. Because I don’t like when women wear a lot of makeup,” he answered cheerfully. And this was someone who self-identified as a man who respects women.
I wanted to get up from the table, but there were three things in my way:
So I stayed and said I don’t accept compliments at the expense of shaming other women. That I don’t give a shit if other women wear a lot of makeup. If a woman wants to wear a lot of makeup and it makes her feel good, I have neither the right nor the desire to judge.
“I mean, have you ever heard that song that goes ‘Went to bed at 2 with a 10 and woke up at 10 with a 2?” he asked, laughing.
I didn't even crack a smile. “Wouldn’t a man have to be pretty fucking stupid to think that a woman with a lot of makeup looks like that naturally?” I asked back.
That ended the conversation. Now, this was before I had my booty call, so I was, if you remember, unbearably horny at this point. He had made it clear throughout the night (and his communication after the date) that he wanted to sleep with me. This was a scenario where I could have sex if I wanted to. But at that moment with the makeup comment, I knew I did not want this person touching me at all. I stuck to my resolution.
The other was straight up terrible. A guy had driven an hour to Asheville to pick me up and take me to dinner. Before the meeting, he had asked me some questions about my sexuality, which I answered honestly. We seemed to like a lot of the same things so I had said if we vibed, a hookup was entirely possible. He arrived to pick me up and I knew the moment I saw him that he did not give me a lady boner. It wasn’t a physical thing; he looked like his pictures. For whatever reason (and I don’t even need to give a reason), I was not feeling it. But he wasn’t rude, he wasn’t mean—I absolutely was interested in having dinner and talking and just meeting a new person, but that was it.
Halfway through the date, he brought up sex. I steered the conversation in another direction. Towards the end of the date, he made it apparent that he wanted an answer: was he coming back to mine or no? I said no. He said he understood, but I could tell that wasn’t cool with it.
I don’t have a car in Asheville. And I had trusted this person with my address after telling him that he wasn’t allowed to come to my place without an invitation. And the restaurant wasn’t within walking distance, so I had to have him take me home. (Looking back, I should have taken a fucking cab.)
We’re about ten minutes from my place when he starts trying to sell the idea of me sleeping with him after I have made it explicitly clear that I was not interested. He literally uses the term “elevator pitch.” I start to feel nauseous.
“I don’t go on many dates.” [guilt tactic] [and not my fucking problem]
“I don’t get out much, haha.” [ditto]
“I drove an hour to come here. There aren’t many dateable people in [city he was from].” [ditto]
“But when we were talking before we met, I thought…” [I never gave explicit consent and EVEN IF I HAD, I am allowed to take it away]
And this one fucking took my breath away:
“I think that when you left the house tonight, before you even saw me, you knew you didn’t want to have sex.”
At this point, I am sick to my stomach. I can feel my heartbeat pounding in my head, and I am trying to keep it together.
As calmly and evenly as I could muster, I said, “I know the desired effect of your 'elevator pitch' is to endear yourself to me, but I want to let you know that it is doing the exact opposite. Because you are pissing me the fuck off.”
He threw up his hands in surrender and said okay. And then he proceeded to ask me multiple times if we were going to meet up again. At this point, I am feeling incredibly unsafe. I am in a car with a stranger in a town I don’t know and he is not taking my no to sex as an answer. I do not feel safe enough to give a flat-out "no, I never want to see you again." I have no idea how he will react--if he'll start driving me somewhere other than my home, if he'll pop me in the face, who knows what the hell else--because I don't know this guy. So I keep repeating “I don’t know” every time he asks.
When he drops me off, I tell him to text me when he gets home. (Because I wanted to know when he was an hour the fuck away from me.) And then I sent him this:
The next morning, my AirBNB host (who is a badass) asks me how the date went. I tell her. I know the make and model of his car, I know his first name, I have his picture, and I know his license plate number. We have a cop who lives across the street. It's downright sad that I even have to think about these things.
So those have been my dating experiences in Asheville. Can I move back to Boston yet?
When I flew into Charlotte airport, I hadn’t eaten all day. Planes make me feel gross, so I always concentrate more on hydrating, but also, let’s be honest, there were some nerves thrown in there, too. So, while sliding into a booth at some Charlotte Airport eatery, it all hit me at once, like smelling salts.
Oh. I forgot that Southern accents are a thing.
Oh. I forgot that country music is a thing.
Oh. No one here wears headphones while they’re walking around? Cool, cool.
Hours later, I got to my house in Asheville. There’s a fantasy that many people with remote jobs have when we visit places in the middle of nowhere where it’s like: I could live here. I could stay here in a cabin in the middle of the woods, out in nature, and live in a cheap place. I could BUY A HOUSE MAYBE. And have dogs and a yard and go hiking—those city people who have to commute into work every day? Those SUCKERS.
And then you get to a place like Asheville and you remember that that’s why you like going there on vacation. Because it is a place to vacation. Maybe not so much a place to live.
When I got to Boston, I was overwhelmed and intimidated and thinking what the fuck am I doing. I’m not strong enough to travel across the country by myself. And then it passed after two days through a combination of long walks, seeing friends (new and old!), and, let’s face it, beautiful men who do things like bring tincture on dates and ask if they can go down on you. Here, the travel hangover lasted a week. It was a combination of the following things:
Between total screen time burnout, culture shock, and adapting to a new dating style (the ONLY app people use here is Tinder!), there were tears. Oh, how there were tears.
I know myself well enough to realize after four months, I needed a session with my therapist. I needed a tune-up, so I scheduled a FaceTime appointment.
Now, in addition to the burnout, there was something else going on as well. I was positively, insanely, unbearably, uh, as Austin Powers would say: randy.
I have rolled my eyes so hard at dudes who are like “If I don’t sleep with someone soon I’m going to explode, I need the release, it’s a biological thing, dear god all this testosterone, I just need to plow something, I can’t think of anything else, yada yada yada.” I’m like, oh just calm down over there, champ. But then after my first five days in Asheville, out of nowhere, despite feeling completely exhausted, that horn dog compulsion hit me. It literally felt like an itch I needed to scratch, nothing more, AND I WAS COVERED IN FLEAS.
Now, when I was home in NY for the holidays, everyone asked me the same thing: BUT WHAT IF YOU FIND THE ONE, DANA. ARE YOU GONNA SETTLE DOWN?!!!” And my answer every fucking time is to laugh and say, “First off, I highly doubt I'd find anyone I'd consider to be The One while traveling, but if I do... then I finish my trip. Because the kind of man I would want to date would want me to see this through and would be willing to figure our relationship out until the trip is over.”
But sometimes I do get worried when I move to a new place that I’ll meet someone that I really like and then won’t be able to stay, which seems like a legitimate concern for someone in my position. But I got here and was like “yeah, no, there’s no fucking way I’m living in Asheville” and that took all the pressure off. Oh! I realized. I can just hook up with people and not worry about them being The One.
Still horny (which, incidentally, is the name of my fifth memoir when I’m 70), and with all the pressure taken off, I did something I never did before: I initiated a booty call via Tinder. There has never been a time where I have said to someone, “Yeah, just come over.” I prefer to meet in person and have my A+ tits out, charm someone with my dazzling personality, and see what happens.
But then I met a really chill bisexual dude in an open relationship on Tinder—we discussed testing, he went above and beyond to give me a rundown of the sexual history of him and his primary partner, and let me know that he’s on PReP. He was charming and woke, identifying as an intersectional feminist. Our conversation was great, I liked what he was working with, and eventually asked if he could come over.
Before I did this, I thought long and hard (heh) if I was doing it for the right reasons. Was I doing this because I was lonely? Was I doing this because I felt unsettled or sad? Was I doing this for anything other than the right reasons? I had an inclination that the answer to all those questions was no, by this time the sad feelings had dissipated, my friends make it impossible for me to feel lonely, but I wanted to go over it with my therapist just to be sure.
The funny thing about Cecilia is that she looks very much like my mom. Both of us with our earphones in, I got right to the point.
“Listen, Cecilia. I’m not doing this because I need to feel validated or wanted or suppress some feelings. I got out all the tears throughout the week and am feeling so much better emotionally. I just feel burnt out. I need to blow off some steam and I went about this in the safest way possible. This guy and I talked about testing, consent, and the parameters of his open relationship, I gave him my address with explicit instruction to never come over without my invitation, and he freely gave me his first and last name, which I Googled, to verify his identity. I’m being as responsible as I possibly can in this situation.”
There was no trace of judgment on Cecilia’s face. “Do you have a bad gut instinct about this guy? Is that why you’re questioning this? Because if you are, I would listen to that.”
I did a gut check. I didn’t feel bad! He and I talked throughout the day and I ensured he was respectful, consent-driven, someone I actually liked, and that there was plenty of physical attraction. I didn’t want to fuck someone I was just meh about. After the gut check, I realized I was excited to meet this guy! I was excited to get plowed! So what was the hold up?
The truth was I was uncomfortable with the stigma regarding a booty call. I felt like I was somehow being a bad person. It felt dirty or wrong (says the girl who has a little story coming out in Time Out magazine about how I watched a dude in Astoria jack off via webcam every few weeks for four months…). It’s not something I’d done before; I’M NOT THE KIND OF GIRL WHO DOES BOOTY CALLS, I thought.
Then I took a step back. Women who make booty calls aren’t inferior. Women who make booty calls for the right reasons (not for emotional management, not “to feel wanted,” not to stave off some uncomfortable feelings) and consider their health and the health of their sex partner—what was wrong with that? If a woman came to me and asked me if these parameters were wrong, what would I say? I would say no. I would say that that all seemed perfectly reasonable to me.
So, sure, I have never been a booty call person before. Well, what if, in this situation, I was?
After explaining this, Cecilia chirped, “Then this doesn’t seem like a problem to me!”
Phew. Armed with my mom-therapist’s thumbs up, a wave of relief crashed over me. I let out a breath. At peace with my decision, I hung up and realized I had to pee. I went to the bathroom.
Until that moment, I thought my period was over.
Narrator voice: “It was not.”
I did the right thing and texted the dude that I was on the rag. He said that he was fine with it, but if it made me uncomfortable, we could plan for another time. I thought I was dreaming. Who was this angel?
Blah blah blah, he came over, he was super good-looking and kind, and we essentially ended up turning my bed into a deleted scene from CSI Asheville. (I even put a towel down!) (Side note: I’m not sure really what the fuck to do. Do I take the sheets to a dry cleaners and risk looking like Patrick Bateman? Honestly, I’ll probably just end up buying my AirBNB host new sheets and towels.)
And the best part was he was a super nice guy! In real life, he was as good of a conversationalist as he was online, plus funny and smart—afterwards, we laid around and traded Tinder horror stories (I won—my “a dude brought me back to an air mattress” story is good on paper, but even better with my delivery), we talked about what it’s like to date men here (he had some of the frustrations I had), and he even offered to show me some good hikes and waterfalls around Asheville, which I will take him up on. He even joked that the sex was so fun he might even finally give Tinder a rating on the App store.
I've always believed that sex is a form of self-care, but, for me, it was usually within the parameters of a date or a relationship. This experience challenged me to think outside that box (and my box). So I guess the lesson I learned was that I didn’t think I was a booty call kinda girl, but if you try hard and believe in yourself (and do it safely and responsibly), anything is possible. There’s no reason to judge yourself. The only judgment I experienced happened later that night when a delivery guy from Mellow Mushroom Pizza came by and read out my order (“Cheesy breadsticks, wings, chocolate peanut butter cookie?”), his voice DRIPPING with shade. (I felt like saying, YEAH BUDDY, I’M PERIODING SO HARD RIGHT NOW, but I somehow kept it together.) And that’s how it should be.
Dana Hamilton is a New York City-based writer who has a passion for all things having to do with the body. She writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a frequent contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Thrillist, among other publications. Before she became a freelance writer, she was an editor at two "Big Five" houses in the book publishing industry. She has also written four books (under a pseudonym) for HarperCollins and is currently working on her fifth novel. She holds a BA in writing and nutrition from New York University.
Dana Hamilton is a New York City-based writer who has a passion for all things having to do with the body. She writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a frequent contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Time Out NY, and SELF, among other publications. Before she became a freelance writer, she was an editor at two "Big Five" houses in the book publishing industry. She has also written four books (under a pseudonym) for HarperCollins and is currently working on her fifth novel. She holds a BA in writing and nutrition from New York University.